The Appliance Bulb Employee

How many times do you hear managers say, “Why can’t my employees think for themselves?  No one thinks for themselves anymore!”

It’s hard to accept that not every employee is going to be a 1000 watt bulb shining brightly and illuminating us all; it’s even harder to accept that we can’t make them into one.  As a good leader and manager you want everyone to do their best and think through every issue and permutation of a problem and come up with solutions, but let’s face it – they can’t all do that.  You know what it’s like to get an email from that one employee saying we need to do “x” and the first thing that comes to mind is well, did you look into “y”, did you find out what happens if we go with “z”? Did you research this at all? Have you heard of Google?  Can’t you think for yourself?  You quickly become disappointed and in many ways disenfranchised.

Take a look at whether you enable this behavior. Ask yourself:

  • Do you give typically supply an answer – it is the quickest and fastest way to get to the solution – or do you encourage employees to think on their own?
  • Do you encourage employees to provide alternative solutions to problems?
  • Do you let your employees know that it’s ok if mistakes are made as long as research was done?

Try this out then see how the employee reacts. Ask them – what would you do if I wasn’t here?  If they just can’t think for themselves; that may be ok depending on the job they have.

The simple reality is that not everyone is or can be a 1000 watt bulb; we all need appliance bulbs too – the kind that turn on when you open the doors and turn off when you close them.  They get things done but they really can’t think for themselves and they rely on you, as the manager, to do that.  These employees are typically good soldiers who take orders.  They can be counted on to get jobs done when the instructions are laid out clearly.

Help your employees reach their potential and accept them for who and what they are to your organization – no matter what wattage light bulb they may be.